Washington Area residents, who read of an elderly couple's struggle against crime and poverty in Wednesday's editions of The Washington Post, have responded with gifts of cash and offers of personal assistance to the destitute family.
An estimated 300 phone calls flooded telephone switchboards of The Post and the social services offices of the D.C. Department of Human Resources yesterday.
Most of the callers offered cash. Others wanted to provide personal services and meet George Blackburn, 79, and his wife, Lillian, 61, both of whom have been victims of beatings and robberies and have lived without electricity and gas for six months.
William Holland, an employe at a local harware store, offered to repair the Blackburns' apartment lock, which has not worked properly in 15 years. Marnette Rice said she will pay the remaining $11.74 on the couple's overdue gas bill.
A Clinton couple, who moved from Southeast Washington to the suburbs a year ago, offered to keep the Blackburns in their three bedroom home until better housing is arranged for the Blackburns in Washington.
"We were really touched by the article in the paper and we wanted to do something to help," said a woman caller, who wished to remain anonymous. "We feel that peoeple ought to stop giving so much lip service and offer help when it's needed."
Ronald McIntyre, a parking lot attendant, said he is sending the Blackburns a check for $25. He said he will also canvass his colleagues throughout the city for donations for the family.
Callers from the National Institutes of Health and the Fort Meade Army installation said they plan to collect donations from their fellow workers for the Blackburns. Two Catholic University professors also pledged money.
James Clark, a Democratic candidate for mayor of D.C., telephoned The Post to say that he will send the Blackburns a check for $102.10, the total amount that was taken from them in an April robbery.
"This is not a political thing," Clark said. "I was touched by what I read and and I want to help these people. I work with people at the grass roots level and I know about their problems.
"The response to the Blackburns' problem has been tremendous," said Barbara Veneris, volunteer coordinator for the city's social services offices. She took calls at 727-3244. "This family will benefit a great deal from the public's help."